Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Downside of Ops Sessions: More Punch List Items

For those of you contemplating operations, this here little post will give you an idea of the types of issues that operating sessions will bring to the surface. Just like the bubbles coming up in your resin pond, you pop each one as it surfaces. It's just funny how such things hardly ever raise their heads until Ops Session Night.

And for those of you that are experienced Ops Session Hosts, how many of these sound familiar?

Equipment Issues
  • Motive Power
    • K-1 mogul had sound but no motion.
      • Bonus: only happened occasionally
      • Downside: only happened occasionally (so can't be replicated).
    • K-1 tender truck derailing between Shailerville and under-Middletown.
      • Possible track issue - more likely a tender-binding issue.
  • Rolling Stock
    • Some couplers mismatched in height and type
      • PLE 35988, NWX 15356
      • Remedy: use the coupler height gauge, and standardize on KD #58s
    • Broken Coupler on NH 17050 (DCFC)
Electrical Issues
  • Intermittent shorting on reverse loops and wye which are controlled by Digitrax AR-1s
    • Remedy: adjust trip current; or replace with PSX-ARs if necessary.
  • Feeders needed between Shailerville & Middletown (DONE)
  • Need cab plug-in at east (left) end of Old Saybrook
    • Remedy: need to extend cab bus from Essex up & over doorway and under Shore Line and install additional plug-in panel.
  • Relocate the main radio antenna to improve coverage at New London staging (DONE)
Trackwork Issues
  • Troubleshoot "Berlin Jct" switch
    • Turnout that splits between Berlin Main and Main headed toward Wethersfield  - K-1 was picking points there
  • File points on Track 6-8 switch in East Haddam (DONE)
  • Fix/replace 24" radius curve and turnout on the Shore Line (west loop)
  • Nails at end of airline staging (DONE)
    • To keep things from rolling off into the abyss
Operations Issues
  • Physical
    • Uncoupling deep in Middletown yard
      • Need a more-accurately-sized Remington mockup (DONE)
    • Uncoupling tools
    • Knob on Middletown switch pushrod
      • Having the cut-off end of a coat hanger sticking out of the fascia is a bad idea.
  • Paperwork
    • Trains Are Unbalanced
      • Some trains have too much work; other trains don't have enough.
      • The Valley local especially has too much work to do (they outlawed) - such a heavy workload may actually be unprototypical for 1947.
    • Cars need waybills
      • Using just switchlists, it's hard to keep track from one session to the next where cars are supposed to go.
    • Need paperwork for Valley Local to go to East Haddam
      • This will be part of a more-thorough ops/paperwork reworking
    • Indicate grade crossings
      • Even just marking them on the plywood - so crews get used to working with/around them.
    • Bill Boxes or Binder Clips?
      • To hold waybills at each town (when I get waybills)
    • Label all industries
      • Part of the "label everything" rule that's critical to successful operations.
    • Put track layout/spotting locations on fascia
      • "Label Everything"
  • Crew Assistance
    • "Conductor's Notes"
      • Available in each town, like an "old hand" these notes would give crews some hints for for efficient switching in each town.
    • "Engine(er's) Notes"
      • For each loco/throttle, indicate how to get to all the different functions (besides the obvious ones of "bell" and "whistle")
      • Especially important to note momentum/braking particularities.
And these all came about during a relatively trouble-free session! Now, admittedly, some of these items were already on my punch list to do, but haven't (yet) become so much of a problem that they've bubbled up to the top of the priority list. But the sheer volume gives you an idea of what you can expect on a medium-to-large sized layout - at least in the early days of operations.

So be sure to keep that in mind as you consider your own layout and how big you want it to be. I'm fortunate that I have many helpers - if I were a lone wolf, I'd either scale this layout WAY back or (hopefully) would not have bitten off so much to begin with.

In the meantime, I hope to get some time this weekend to cross some of these things off the list. Next session is only a couple weeks away!


  1. Chris,

    Long time admirer, first time commenter ...

    While a long ways away from New Haven territory here in Australia, I feel your pain. Yesterday's operating session on my "Border District" layout - while probably the smoothest and best yet - has generated a goodly amount of "punch list" items to be tackled ... simultaneous "hoorays" and "groans" all around!

    Thanks for taking the time to blog - always worth the read. I look forward to hearing how you fair with your "punch list" ...

    Kind regards,
    Anthony Palmer

    1. Hi Anthony! Glad you're enjoying the blog and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Sounds like you and I are in the same boat - at least our layouts are operating smoothly, so it sounds like our punch list items are really just "details" at this point, which is a fine place to be. I hope to be able to get some of the items punched off my list this Sunday before next Thursday's ops session. Thanks again for stopping by! -Chris